Violet Hart is perhaps the most galvanizing character on Murdoch Mysteries. Facebook feeds have been devoted to her conniving and plotting, with many comments simply stating, “I hate the character, so congratulations to the actress!”
That’s music to Shanice Banton’s ears. The actress, who has previously starred on Degrassi: The Next Generation and Lost Girl, has portrayed Violet Hart for a mere 33 episodes but has made a huge splash on a show celebrating 200 instalments. When we first met Ms. Hart, she was selling vitamins. Now she’s a coroner accused of murder. With Monday’s Murdoch Mysteries season finale upon us, we spoke to Banton about the brouhaha surrounding Ms. Hart.
Give me your origin story. How did you end up playing this character of Violet Hart in the first place?
Shanice Banton: I was shooting another project and this opportunity had come up, just like a regular audition, and I ended up putting myself on tape for it, I believe. Same old audition style, regular audition style and they told me they wanted to have me on, and that was it.
What were your initial thoughts? Coming off a show like the Degrassi or Lost Girl, you’re coming onto Murdoch Mysteries, which is a period drama. Was your initial reaction, ‘Yeah, get me into some of that old clothing!’
SB: Yeah. It kind of took me back to high school, ‘Ooh, this feels like theatre.’ This is exciting, but you’re doing it for film. It’s amazing because I’ve done a lot of older plays and stuff like that in high school.
Obviously hair, makeup, costumes, all that helps make this character.
SB: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we have Deb [Drennan] who does makeup and she is just super amazing at transforming me so that I would fit absolutely perfectly for that time. Exactly knowing what to do. And with Joanna [Syrokomla] as well, she’s been doing some amazing, amazing things like pulling things from these New Age stores, like Zara and cutting things together, building things for the character and it’s amazing. They even collage and such and without those things, until I stepped into my costume, until I step into makeup, that’s when I really feel like, ah, I’m Violet Hart now.
They really help shape your character. So I’m so glad that we have a team that’s amazing at that. Really awesome.
It was interesting to see how Violet was introduced. She was at a show and she was selling vitamins. Julia took her under her wing and, right from the get-go, we knew that Violet was different, that she was ambitious. How much of the character was described to you in those first few episodes of those first few scripts?
SB: A lot of it was just taking it, what I’d been told what she would be like and reading the scripts. [She] was just really pushing the ambition and wanting to get something out of life and get to the next level.
You don’t see Violet as an evil person. She’s an ambitious person, right?
SB: Yeah, absolutely.
How do you feel about playing one of the evilest characters on Murdoch Mysteries?
SB: I feel good about it. I feel great actually. It’s fun. No, honestly, it’s always fun to play these characters. I’m glad that she’s stirring all the other’s troubles in the end. And, you finally get to see who is Violet Hart. We’ve all been wondering. And I think what’s happening here in this last little bit is really going to show that. It is exciting.
Showrunner Peter Mitchell has always said it’s a lot more fun to write for a character like Violet Hart. You’ve already hinted at the fun you’re having.
SB: Yeah, that’s super fun.
On the Facebook pages, the compliment that I see the most is, ‘hate the character because the actress does such a good job.’
SB: I love that. That’s amazing.
What’s it like working with Hélène and Yannick?
SB: They’re really great. When I first stepped onto the show and even up to now, it’s like I’m settled more into my character now than I was in the beginning. But working in the early stages, they were just so planted in their characters and scene actions. It’s really been great to watch them work together and have scenes together and it’s funny, off-set we’ve made a lot of jokes, it’s always great. And the crew is really awesome.
What do you want to say to the fans about this character and how they feel about her?
SB: Well, first of all, I want to say thank you for all the great comments on people hating her. I hope that after this episode you can get to understand her a little bit more and see where she’s coming from and have a little bit of a change of heart.
Have you changed your tune on Violet Hart? What do you think will happen in the finale? Let me know in the comments below.
The Season 13 finale of Murdoch Mysteries airs Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.